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Season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale has been emotionally exhausting. The cruelty of Gilead continues to surprise both June and the audience, and episode 10 "The Last Ceremony" was certainly no exception. After a false labor, Fred and Serena Joy Waterford decide they cannot wait for their baby, and therefore get their Handmaid out of the house. They decide the best way to trigger labor would be through intercourse, and attempt to bring back The Ceremony. But this time June fights back, and they force her down and sexually assault the protagonist a last time. It's one of the show's most harrowing sequences, and one that is sure to be the subject of controversy. Writer/producer Yahlin Chang recently explained the choice to show June's rape onscreen, saying:
I hear that concern. God, there are two things. One is that I felt like that is what would happen. What guides us in creating stories is being true to these characters and true to the situation that they find themselves in, and what would actually happen... The whole system that Gilead is built on is systematic rape and on the idea that the handmaid's body does not belong to her, it belongs to the wife and the commander. It's their body, so if they want to get the baby out sooner, they can do whatever they want to get the baby out sooner. I absolutely believe that they would. Why wouldn't they do that?
The overall concept of The Handmaid's Tale is terrifying, where members of the population are routinely raped in hopes of procreation for the Gilead's high ranking officials. Handmaids are stripped of their identity, living mostly as bodies within the household. As such, Fred and Serena's minds would be able to justify having an unscheduled Ceremony, hoping it might help bring June to labor in the process.
But this Ceremony was different, as June outright fought against her rape. Ultimately Fred and Serena force her to submit, with Offred dissociating from herself in the final brutal moments. In her conversation with TV Line, Yahlin Chang addressed writing the scene, specifically after the cast, crew, and audience have become so numb to The Ceremony.
The Ceremony where the handmaids have disassociated and all seems calm and placid, what's going on in these girls' mind is what happens in this scene. It's that terrible every single time for those women. So I do feel like it's not gratuitous at all. It's actually, in some ways, the most honest depiction... Because it's that horrible. Rape is just horrible, and that's what those handmaids are going through every single month. It's that brutal a process. There is this sort of, like, what did you think was happening in every Ceremony?
The silent horror of The Ceremony was also portrayed through the opening moments of the episode, where Emily (Alexis Bledel) was shown attempting to get through it. Her Commander ultimately has a heart attack during the act, and she managed to give him a few kick to the groin while help was called.